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11 January 2019

CES the stage for Here’s OLP Marketplace, data feedback loops

CES was full of automotive announcements, just like last year, and while grand claims of self-driving capabilities were diminished, the mapping ecosystem seemed to get a lot more attention from the vendors. Dampened expectations on the arrival schedule for autonomous vehicles is welcome to see, but in the meantime, there’s an awful lot of back-end platform development that needs to be in place, before such cars can be properly unleashed.

It will come as no surprise that Here had a busy show, with its biggest news being the launch of the Open Location Platform (OLP) Marketplace. The OLP has been at the core of Here’s strategy for some time, as a platform that collects location data from all manner of sources, of which more and more are falling under the IoT umbrella. Here seems firmly out in front, currently, but rivals like TomTom and Terbine are gaining speed.

Now that the OLP Marketplace itself is available, and it has been a long-time coming, Here hopes to take a slice of all the transactions made on the platform – as businesses either populate the Marketplace with their own data sources, or pay to gain access to other data sources. We’ve covered the OLP pretty thoroughly in the past. Here has been fleshing out its own integrations, with both Sigfox and LoRa (Actility) bringing some LPWAN sources to the platform, but Here already taps cellular and WiFi sites for data – something that Sigfox is using to provide tracking services.

A good example of the power of the OLP was highlighted at CES, when Here announced a targeted advertising service, which uses Here’s access to the rich location data to enable advertisers to place more specific and relevant adverts – something that is highly desired in the industry.

To this end, the Advertising Data Services uses a fancy API that lets companies on both the supply and demand side of things to examine audience footfall and behavior, via Places and 2D Footprints – two Here tools. Here says that Places has more than 120mn points of interest across 200 countries, while 2D Footprints visualizes the size and shape of buildings, to determine if a mobile phone is actually inside a building or not.

“We are on a mission to make the HERE Open Location Platform the powerhouse for thousands of data-rich applications and solutions across industries that will realize the vision of an autonomous world for everyone,” said Edzard Overbeek, CEO of HERE Technologies. “The HERE OLP Marketplace gives companies and developers the chance to tap into location data at unprecedented scale to create new solutions for people and enterprises worldwide.”

Here recently founded the OneMap Alliance, which should build on its strong position in the automotive mapping services world. At the same time as founding OneMap, Here unveiled its OTA Connect service, which as the name implies, is a way of updating the software and services inside a vehicle. At CES, there have been a number of updates to this, as well as the launch of a SaaS option called Navigation on Demand, which is essentially a way for customers to pipe the in-car navigation systems into their vehicles in a SaaS fashion – a different way of purchasing and maintaining.

There was also the inevitable Alexa integration, which may as well be a pre-requisite for entry to CES these days, but Here also announced a number of customer wins – although a couple of them are shareholders too, it should be noted. Audi picked Here for live traffic data in North America and Europe, while Mercedes-Benz picked the same service in the Americas and APAC.

Verve, a programmatic (part-automated) advertising platform form mobile devices, partnered with Here to develop mobile display advertising, as well as explore out-of-home (OOH) and in-vehicle advertising opportunities. Fathom, a maker of Bluetooth-powered asset tracking devices and services, partnered with Here to use its mapping platform, and Here also announced that it was integrating GiPStech’s inertial sensor technology into Here Positioning – the suite that powers Here’s locational positioning stack.

Moving away from Here, Intel and its Mobileye division have announced a partnership with the Ordnance Survey, the national UK organization charged with mapping the country. The deal will see Mobileye supply road-side data to the OS, pulled from its camera systems and other available sensors in the vehicles, which will let OS sell better maps to its customers – which include national UK government agencies, as well businesses.

Of course, Intel is also a Here shareholder, but this approach is the same as that used by Here, in which the vehicles using its maps are in turn sending data back to update and refresh the maps. That benefit can then be provided to all the other vehicles in the network. In this case though, OS vehicles are being equipped with Mobileye’s 8 Connect dashboard-mounted units, which house the same family of processors that will be powering the connected cars of the future. It’s easy to see how such commercial relationships will evolve, sharing the wealth of data that is generated by all manner of connected devices.

This feedback loop is potentially extremely powerful, but of course, such loops run the risk of commercial interests interfering. Here’s position in the market might make it the de facto standard, which would then likely draw the interest of competition and market regulators. Profit-seeking behavior or exclusivity licenses could also damage the loop, which is reliant on having enough vehicles contributing to it to keep it current. If different mapping platforms get greedy and try to put up walls, the entire market could collectively suffer.